Sunday, 2 June 2013

Two forthcoming manuscripts on demonic hierarchies

Since I have discovered a small treatise in an Italian corpus in the Laurentian Medici Library in Florence I have made every effort possible to see it translated. Some close collaborators know I was working on something big but the only person fully knowing all the details was Stephen Skinner, who gladly accepted to publish my work on it. 

No major development in the project until about two weeks age, when I picked up a Romanian volume of a well-known orientalist, Constantin Daniel, called Scripta Aramaica. Appended to his chapter about kabbala, there was an illustration I ve long since forgotten about, two pages from a kabbalistic treatise called The Wisdom of Solomon. One page featured an anthropocephalic figure containing the name BILZIBUTH and a close set circle was occupied by a seal. To my astonishment, the seal was identical to the seal of BELZABUC in the Italian manuscript. 

Sadly, mister Daniel did not have a well constructed critical apparatus and did not cite his source, nor did he mention the manuscript source.

I sent my scan to the only person sufficiently knowledgeable in both Hebrew and kabbala, Rabbi Yosef Cohen, whose name appears recurrently throughout this blog, and to my astonishment, not only did he recognize it, but sent me a complete microfilm of the treatise Hokmath Shlomoh, the Wisdom of Solomon. Its dated 1850, which is still remarkable to have kept the seals intact.

But there was even a bigger surprise when he told me that the manuscript was a different one: indeed, the manuscript was of a similar hand and contained the same information, but they differed.

 The good rabbi told me that the scan contained the following note on the first page:

  1. "I copied this book from a very old manuscript from the house of R' [R' =Reb (Mr.) or Rabbi] [can't make out the name!] from Wirbach (?) [a few more words I can't make out] from the land of Russia Yosef Sofer Stam. Year [can't make out the year]".

I managed to find a good quality color scan and proceded to its study, with Rabbi Cohen aiding on its transcription and translation, to whom I cannot express my gratitude enough.   




 Comparative examples of similarity in the morphology of the seals:

1. The seal of BELZABUH in the Italian Mss.


 2. Seal of BILZIBUTH in the Hebrew Mss.

  


3. Seal of ORIENS in the Italian Mss.



4. Seal of ORIENS in the Hebrew Mss.



The Italian manuscript contains 100 seals but it is incomplete regarding the descriptions of the princes, listing only about a quarter. The Hebrew manuscript however, is complete: Each demon has its seal and name at the beginning, their name written in a secret script, a short paragraph on him (presumably containing his appearance, force, powers, office and legions, like the Italian manuscript) and most importantly, a full page drawing in watercolor. 

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